2010 Earthquake in Port Au Prince, Haiti - A quick Overview port au prince, haiti earthquake, hatian earthquake, haiti earthquake relief, hatian earthquake blogs Haiti's 2010 Earthquake - A Quick Overview Port Au Prince, Haiti Earthquake 2010

The 2010 Haiti earthquake was a catastrophic magnitude 7.0 Mw earthquake. Its epicentre was near the town of Léogâne, approximately 25 km (16 miles) west of Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital. The earthquake occurred at 16:53 local time (21:53 UTC) on Tuesday, 12 January 2010. By 24 January, at least 52 aftershocks measuring 4.5 or greater had been recorded. An estimated three million people were affected by the quake; the Haitian Government stated on 10 February 2010 that 230,000 people had been identified as dead and an estimated 300,000 injured had been treated. They also estimated that 250,000 residences and 30,000 commercial buildings had collapsed or were severely damaged.

The earthquake caused major damage to Port-au-Prince, Jacmel and other settlements in the region. Many notable landmark buildings were significantly damaged or destroyed, including the Presidential Palace, the National Assembly building, the Port-au-Prince Cathedral, and the main jail. Among those killed were Archbishop of Port-au-Prince Monsignor Joseph Serge Miot, and opposition leader Micha Gaillard. The headquarters of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), located in the capital, collapsed, killing many, including the Mission's Chief, Hédi Annabi.

Many countries responded to appeals for humanitarian aid, pledging funds and dispatching rescue and medical teams, engineers and support personnel. Communication systems, air, land, and sea transport facilities, hospitals, and electrical networks had been damaged by the earthquake, which hampered rescue and aid efforts; confusion over who was in charge, air traffic congestion, and problems with prioritisation of flights further complicated early relief work. Port-au-Prince's morgues were quickly overwhelmed; tens of thousands of bodies were buried in mass graves. As rescues tailed off, supplies, medical care and sanitation became priorities. Delays in aid distribution led to angry appeals from aid workers and survivors, and some looting and sporadic violence were observed. On 22 January the United Nations noted that the emergency phase of the relief operation was drawing to a close, and on the following day the Haitian government officially called off the search for survivors.

Conditions in the Aftermath

In the nights following the earthquake, many people in Haiti slept in the streets, on pavements, in their cars, or in makeshift shanty towns either because their houses had been destroyed, or they feared standing structures would not withstand aftershocks. Construction standards are low in Haiti; the country has no building codes. Engineers have stated that it is unlikely many buildings would have stood through any kind of disaster. Structures are often raised wherever they can fit; some buildings were built on slopes with insufficient foundations or steel works. A representative of Catholic Relief Services has estimated that about two million Haitians lived as squatters on land they did not own. The country also suffered from shortages of fuel and potable water even before the disaster.

President Préval and government ministers used police headquarters near the Toussaint L'Ouverture International Airport as their new base of operations, although their effectiveness was extremely limited; several parliamentarians were still trapped in the Presidential Palace, and offices and records had been destroyed. Some high-ranking government workers lost family members, or had to tend to wounded relatives. Although the president and his remaining cabinet met with UN planners each day, there remained confusion as to who was in charge and no single group had organised relief efforts as of 16 January. The government handed over control of the airport to the United States to hasten and ease flight operations, which had been hampered by the damage to the air traffic control tower.

Almost immediately Port-au-Prince's morgue facilities were overwhelmed. By 14 January, a thousand bodies had been placed on the streets and pavements. Government crews manned trucks to collect thousands more, burying them in mass graves. In the heat and humidity, corpses buried in rubble began to decompose and smell. Mati Goldstein, head of the Israeli ZAKA International Rescue Unit delegation to Haiti, described the situation as "Shabbat from hell. Everywhere, the acrid smell of bodies hangs in the air. It’s just like the stories we are told of the Holocaust – thousands of bodies everywhere. You have to understand that the situation is true madness, and the more time passes, there are more and more bodies, in numbers that cannot be grasped. It is beyond comprehension."

Mayor Jean-Yves Jason said that officials argued for hours about what to do with the volume of corpses. The government buried many in mass graves, some above-ground tombs were forced open so bodies could be stacked inside, and others were burned. Mass graves were dug in a large field outside the settlement of Titanyen, north of the capital; tens of thousands of bodies were reported as having been brought to the site by dump truck and buried in trenches dug by earth movers. Max Beauvoir, a Vodou priest, protested the lack of dignity in mass burials, stating, "... it is not in our culture to bury people in such a fashion, it is desecration".

The Haitian government began a programme to move homeless people out of Port-au-Prince on a ferry to Port Jeremie and in hired buses to temporary camps.

Towns in the eastern Dominican Republic began preparing for tens of thousands of refugees, and by 16 January hospitals close to the border had been filled to capacity with Haitians. Some began reporting having expended stocks of critical medical supplies such as antibiotics by 17 January. The border was reinforced by Dominican soldiers, and the government of the Dominican Republic asserted that all Haitians who crossed the border for medical assistance would be allowed to stay only temporarily. A local governor stated, "We have a great desire and we will do everything humanly possible to help Haitian families. But we have our limitations with respect to food and medicine. We need the helping hand of other countries in the area."

Slow distribution of resources in the days after the earthquake resulted in sporadic violence, with looting reported. There were also accounts of looters wounded or killed by vigilantes and neighborhoods that had constructed their own roadblock barricades. Dr Evan Lyon of Partners in Health, working at the General Hospital in Port-Au-Prince, claimed that misinformation and overblown reports of violence had hampered the delivery of aid and medical services.

Former U.S. president Bill Clinton acknowledged the problems and said Americans should "not be deterred from supporting the relief effort" by upsetting scenes such as those of looting. Lt. Gen. P.K. Keen, deputy commander of U.S. Southern Command, however, announced that despite the stories of looting and violence, there was less violent crime in Port-au-Prince after the earthquake than before.

In many neighbourhoods, singing could be heard through the night and groups of men coordinated to act as security as groups of women attempted to take care of food and hygiene necessities. During the days following the earthquake, hundreds were seen marching through the streets in peaceful processions, singing and clapping.

Background

The island of Hispaniola, shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic, is seismically active and has a history of destructive earthquakes. During Haiti's time as a French colony, earthquakes were recorded by French historian Moreau de Saint-Méry (1750–1819). He described damage done by an earthquake in 1751, writing that "only one masonry building had not collapsed" in Port-au-Prince; he also wrote that the "whole city collapsed" in the 1770 Port-au-Prince earthquake. Cap-Haïtien, other towns in the north of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and the Sans-Souci Palace were destroyed during an earthquake on 7 May 1842. A magnitude 8.0 earthquake struck the Dominican Republic and shook Haiti on 4 August 1946, producing a tsunami that killed 1,790 people and injured many others.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, and is ranked 149th of 182 countries on the Human Development Index. The Australian government's travel advisory site had previously expressed concerns that Haitian emergency services would be unable to cope in the event of a major disaster, and the country is considered "economically vulnerable" by the Food and Agriculture Organization. It is no stranger to natural disasters; in addition to earthquakes, it has been struck frequently by cyclones, which have caused flooding and widespread damage. The most recent cyclones to hit the island prior to the earthquake were Tropical Storm Fay and Hurricanes Gustav, Hanna and Ike, all in the summer of 2008, causing nearly 800 deaths.

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